Connor Hurlburt was introduced to rugby while in middle school and he was hooked.
“Norm McDougall introduced us to the game and it became a huge passion of mine,” explained the 17-year-old Grade 12 student at Hunting Hills High School.
“I tried to play football once I got to high school, but it just wasn’t the same … rugby is my sport.”
Hurlburt became involved in the sport in middle school, but once he got to high school, and joined the Red Deer Titans Club that he grew as a player.
“I started out playing the back row, where it was basically running, but as I grew up and grew stronger in high school, I moved to the front row,” he said.
The five-foot-10, 215-pound Hurlburt took over as the hooker and hasn’t moved since.
Hooker plays the middle of the front row during a scrum and uses his feet to ‘hook or rake’ the ball back.
“It used to be a dangerous position to play, because you have both your arms pinned back and when you get into the scrum you can be pushed down and have no way to protect you head and neck. There were a lot of injuries, but in the last few years they’ve changed the way you go into the scrum and it’s safer and more stable.
“I enjoy it and can’t see playing somewhere else.”
Hurlburt became involved with the Hunting Hills Lightning senior team while in Grade 9, although he could only practice with them.
“Still that experience, and the fact I joined the Titans, allowed me to grow quickly.”
He’s played the last three years with the Titans U18 team and each year progressed as a team leader.
“I’ve had the same coaches the last three years, and all time in high school, so that was a benefit,” he said. “They have been instrumental in my development.”
Hurlburt, who is a highly motivated athlete, has also committed to the Titans School of Rugby program. He will train with the Titans senior team and join them once his time with the U18 program is done.
The fact the Titans are one of the elite rugby programs in the province has helped in his development as well.
“Getting a chance to compete at a high level and against top competition is a benefit for sure,” he said. “You have a lot more responsibility in games and even in training.”
Hurlburt, who was the Alberta Sports Development Centre — Central male athlete of the month for May, hasn’t had an opportunity to compete with the provincial team, but hopes that will change this summer.
“I want to try out for a team this year and see how it goes,” he said. “I would be good to get that experience and that exposure as I would like to get attend a university which has a rugby team.”
If not he will get into physical therapy at RDC in the fall and continue to play with the Titans.